Nursing a hangover and catching up on Simon Hopkinson's great new TV series 'The Good Cook', I was inspired to cook a crumble. Mr Hopkinson was very insistent that a crumble should not be messed about with and that under no circumstances should oats or other pollutants be added to his purist dessert. My mum is the same and whist I thank her for kick starting my passion for good food, I do feel I am an adult and if I want to add some more exciting ingredients to my crumble then I bloody well will. So Mr Hopkinson, here is my version of a seasonal plum crumble and jolly good it is too!Rant over, there is one more crumble related issue I want to address - the great cream vs custard debate (yawn). I have solved this tiresome contention by serving mine with a chilled creme anglaise.....something for everyone......I am such a man of the people. For four:IngredientsEnglish plums, quartered and stoned - 500gLarge Egg Yolks - 5Star Anise - 2Cinnamon Stick - 1/2Clove - 1Caster Sugar - 250gBlanched Almonds - 100gJumbo Oats - 100gPlain Flour - 250gDemerara Sugar - 50gButter - 125gSalt - a good pinchDouble cream - 250mlFull fat milk - 250mlVanilla Pod
Method:In a pan gently cook your plums with the spices, 50g of the caster sugar and a couple of tbsp of water. Depending on how sweet or sour the plums, you may need to add more sugar but remember, the perfect crumble is a balance of sweet and sharp so don't go crazy. If your plums are nice and ripe, you don't need to cook them very long, just enough to get the juices running - approx 5 mins. Set the plums aside and let the flavours get to know one another.Set your oven to 220c. This crumble recipe will make more than you need. Simply store in an airtight container until needed again or use to top fruit pies, icecream and fools (gooseberry is very good). I also like to cook my crumble seperately from the fruit. This has two benefits, firstly you can make the crumble in advance and assemble very quickly when your guests arrive, secondly I loathe soggy crumble and this method ensures an impressive crunch all the way through the topping. Blitz the flour butter and 150g of the caster sugar in a food processor until roughly mixed. Add the almonds and blitz until they are roughly chopped. Toss in the oats, salt and demerara and pulse for a few seconds to mix. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 mins stirring every 5 mins or so to ensure the edges don't burn. You want the entire crumble to be uniformly golden brown and biscuity. Allow to cool.To make the anglaise, heat the milk, cream, 50g of the caster sugar and the vanilla pod (split and seeds scrapped into the milk). Bring to just under the boil and allow to cool and infuse for 10 mins. Now there are two ways to cook a custard. The proper and safe method using a bain marie or the cowboy fast and dangerous way direct on the heat. The method is the same in both cases - you choose but remember the direct heat method needs constant stirring on a low heat. Watch it like a hawk or you will end up with scrambled eggs! Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and whisk in the egg yolks. Return to the heat or bain marie and bring up to a temperature of approx 75c. If you don't have a temperature probe use your finger. The custard should be too hot to keep your finger in but nowhere near boiling. This temperature is crucial as this is when the eggs cook and thicken the custard. Any hotter and the eggs will scramble so take your time. Once the custard is thickened, tip into another container and allow to cool before you chill.To assemble the custard, simply reheat the plum mixture, top with the crumble mix and flash in the oven to warm through. Job done.